4 Different Types of Pathology Practices
by Jane Meggitt
Pathology, the study of diseases and their causes, encompasses various subtypes. The types of pathology practices also focus on numerous subspecialties related to their respective branches. Here are four pathology specializations to familiarize yourself.
1. Anatomic Pathology
One of the best-known of all types of pathology, anatomic pathology concerns the examination of tissue samples such as those from biopsies. The anatomic pathologist determines the type of disease present in the biopsy specimen which is rendered onto slides and examined under a microscope. Biopsies generally involve suspected cancers, and the anatomic pathologist reports on the type of tumor — its size, grade or how likely it is to grow — and its margins (whether cancer cells are present at the edges of where the tumor was removed).
2. Clinical Pathology
Another of the better-known types of pathology, clinical pathology involves the study of disease and disease processes. When you have blood taken or provide urine for testing, a clinical pathologist is involved. Focusing on certain laboratory specialties, aspects of clinical pathology include:
- Cytogenetics: This subspecialty involves the study of inheritance relating to chromosomal function and structure.
- Hematology: This is the study of blood and its disorders. Hematopathologists specialize in blood diseases. Their work includes laboratory diagnosis of diseases such as leukemia, lymphoma, anemia, clotting disorders and other blood issues.
- Immunology and Serology: The study of the immune system and of blood serum.
- Microbiology: This is the study of disease-causing organisms. The clinical pathologist identifies viruses, bacteria and other organisms that cause infections and other conditions.
3. Forensic Pathology
This subspecialty of forensic pathology concerns autopsying the bodies of those whose cause of death is not known. That ranges from those who died suddenly to victims of violence or whose deaths were deemed suspicious. It is the role of the forensic pathologist to determine how the person died. The forensic pathologist looks for the presence of disease or injuries, or any evidence of overdose or poisoning. They often work with medical examiners and are called to testify in court about their findings.
Forensic pathologists may go to crime scenes to make a preliminary examination of the corpse. At the scene, they may estimate how long the person has been dead.
4. Molecular Pathology
As its name indicates, this relatively new field of pathology deals with disease at the molecular level. Molecular pathologists study disease causes and effects below the cellular level. A patient’s blood and tissue samples have their DNA and RNA isolated and analyzed — not only to diagnose the disease, but to seek indicators that may foretell the course of the disease. This is termed “molecular diagnostics.”
In cancers, molecular pathologists study changes in cancer cells. At this time, that is primarily focused on breast and lung cancers. However, molecular pathology is also used frequently to test for genetic diseases such as cystic fibrosis.
Molecular pathologists work with doctors to determine the most effective medications and treatments for patients. Molecular pathology opens the door to more individualized care — especially involving specific information about a person’s tumor. It is a rapidly-expanding field with constantly evolving technologies.
When it comes to types of pathology, Yosemite Pathology and Precision Pathology has long had a premier role in the Western United States since its founding nearly three-quarters of a century ago. YPPP was ahead of its time even at its 1948 founding because the organization was started by a woman, Dr. Jeanne Miller, a University of California San Francisco-trained pathologist. In the decades since, YPPP has been committed to providing superior and comprehensive diagnostics in all aspects of pathology. Our broad range of specialties in the cancer field offered by our dedicated pathologists includes those of the breast, skin, thyroid, gastrointestinal system and urinary tracts. For more information about our services, contact us today.
Jane Meggitt’s work has appeared in dozens of publications including USA Today, Zack’s, Financial
Advisor, nj.com, The Houston Chronicle and The Nest. She is a graduate of New York University.
John Hopkins Medicine – Clinical Pathology
Association of American Medical Colleges – Hematopathology/Hematology
University of New Mexico – What is a Forensic Pathologist?
The Mount Sinai Hospital – Molecular Pathology